What are you here to do on this earth? Do you know? Do you know what you are uniquely suited for? Do you know where your talents, interests and values converge to create amazing, meaningful experiences? Do you jump out of bed every day and think, “I can’t believe I get to do this today!!”
I thought not.
If you’re like most people you probably like or love what you do every day and like or love who you’re with every day. And there are probably elements of your life that are filled with that purpose. For me, being a Mom has always been that and always be that. But I also never wanted to be a Mom full-time (defined as the 40+ hours/week type Mom) for my whole life. Being a Mom makes me feel like there’s something higher, more important than myself. That feeling of transcendence is what I’m referring to, and it’s something humans have searched and longed for through the ages.
These days it seems rare to find people searching for their life’s purpose. We seem to search for a better car, house or phone. We search for a better-looking mate, cooler friends, or fancier vacations. At some point in our lives, we stop and realize that these material, superficial things are not what gives meaning and purpose to our lives. They just make us feel like we want more and that what we have is not good enough. Thus the mid-life crisis which happens, oh, about now.
What are we searching for? Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth), expert in comparative mythology, calls it our bliss. He describes it as “being in accord with the grand symphony that this world is, to put the harmony of our own body in accord with that harmony.” Martha Beck (Finding Your Own North Star) calls it our essential self that forms before birth and consists of your desires, preferences, emotional reactions resulting in your identity. It’s distinct from the social self that is your essential self buried under filters, restrictions and expectations from self and others. Paul Coelho (The Alchemist) calls it your Personal Legend, or the thing you want to do, deep down inside, more than anything.
The essential self pursues her calling and in so doing, taps into her own flow and the flow of the universal energy (Spirituality, An Eye-Opening Endeavor). When you tap into that universal energy, that energy can be shared with others, and in so doing, helps that other person also feel the universal energy and helps them tap their own. That flow experience also builds positive emotion and success, so the more you pursue it, the more positive emotion and success you experience, and up you go into a positive spiral. This is called Broaden and Build by psychologist Barbara Frederickson (Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive).
Sounds good in theory, right? Yes, it’s hard to find your calling because of our social selves rule much of our time and attention. We quit paying attention to the things we love because we’re told (either directly or indirectly) that other things are more important: making big bucks, pursuing a prestigious job, getting good grades. Pretty soon we forget the things that brought us joy.
Realizing that most of us are mostly living as our social rather than essential self is important to be able to rediscover that essential self (see Breadcrumbs on the Trail of Authenticity). Once we shed those expectations of self and other, we can be more open to where our talents and interests lie. We can discover the markers of flow and joy, even if we’ve taken them for granted our whole life. We can find ways to apply them in a meaningful way and thus craft our Personal Legend. I am also a firm believer that if you love and are excellent at what you do, then you will be able to be successful with its pursuit. It may not enough to maintain a McMansion, but you may decide that McMansion is not as important as it once seemed especially when it compares to living your bliss.